Category: Ages 3–5 (page 1 of 34)

Saint Patrick the Giftgiver

Firstly, wow. Email me, I said. I don’t know what I expected after that last post—a high five gif from a friend maybe, and one or two emails saying, “Yes, we’ve been here this whole time”? I did not expect a swell of emails, all of them thoughtful and kind and so sweetly specific. You gave me glimpses into your lives and let me see how God has used all these good books in them and, honestly, you just kind of blew my mind.

Because this is what this blog looks like from my end: I sit here at our kitchen table at 5:47 a.m. and I write these posts and then they kind of disappear. I mean, I know they’re there—but does anybody else? Your emails told me most emphatically that yes, you know they’re there. I felt like I put a seed in the dirt and went back inside, thinking, Well, I hope that works out, and God just brought me back outside and showed me a dazzling patch of sunflowers. It was moving. You guys: I needed tissues.

Thank you.


And now, enough about me. Let’s talk about Ned.

Ten years ago, I discovered Church History ABCs. I bought it on a whim—no one had recommended it to me; I’d never seen it reviewed. I just happened across it on Amazon and thought, That looks awesome. And while I loved everything about that book—the historical depth, the wordplay, the way it made my daughters belly-laugh—the illustrations were what really stuck with me. They were arrestingly different from the cartoons or soft watercolors I’d encountered in other Christian picture books. There was nothing soft about them: they were all crisp edges, bright colors, clean lines. They were playful and witty and I remember thinking as I studied them, Christian art can look like this? I made note of Ned Bustard then and have devotedly followed his work ever since.*

You may recognize his art from the Every Moment Holy books, or maybe you (lucky you!) have one of his linocuts hanging in your home. Maybe you know him from the Rabbit Room or The O in Hope or you own an album or two with his work on the cover. (If his name is new to you, seek him out. You won’t regret it.) But for me, it all goes back to that book—the one I wanted to share with all my friends so badly that I started a blog to get the word out.

And so it feels fitting to celebrate this blog’s tenth anniversary with Ned Bustard’s newest book, Saint Patrick the Forgiver.

Saint Patrick the Forgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

Like Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, this book introduces readers to the saint behind a holiday and tells that saint’s full story (the facts and the legends, too). This book is short and a lot of fun to read aloud, but don’t let that fool you: it deals in some deep themes. The first half of the book, for example, is a complete story: Patrick is kidnapped by pirates, saved by God, and then restored to his family (huzzah!). God could have stopped there and still given us a satisfying story about how he works out his good plan even on pirate ships or in muddy pastures. But no! The story doesn’t end there, so Bustard’s telling doesn’t either. Patrick says,

And to this day I’d still be home,
but for another vision . . .

This story isn’t simply about God’s provision during difficulty (though that’s certainly in there), but about God’s call upon Patrick to forgive his captors and return to the very place he’d just escaped. So Patrick returns to Ireland and ministers to the people there. But Bustard makes it clear that this is not the product of Patrick’s general awesomeness and budding saintliness—it is the fruit of God’s work in Patrick:

They stole me from my parents!
How could that be forgiven?
The only way I could return
was by the strength of heaven.

Bustard places God at the center of this story, just as he does in Saint Nicholas. Patrick’s faithfulness is wonderful and inspiring, but as he narrates his story, Patrick makes it clear again and again that it was God’s work in him that enabled him to return to Ireland. And so, when we reach the stories of miracles and legends, we know that this was a man acting in obedience to God and serving by God’s strength alone.

Saint Patrick the Forgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

And then there are those illustrations: I suspect that there is a whole visual language at work in Bustard’s illustrations—every detail seems to carry some added meaning, from the Celtic knots to the animals to the composition of each page. The art combines with the story to give us a full, exciting picture of Patrick’s life, but I suspect that the illustrations, if you were to dig deeper into them, tell a whole story unto themselves.

In short, Saint Patrick the Forgiver is exactly the sort of book that got me writing book reviews in the first place: one excellent in every aspect, that points readers from a good story to the Greatest Story, and that reminds readers that God is at work always, in every time and place.

______
*Very closely, in fact, as I now work for him through Square Halo Books (huzzah!).


Saint Patrick the Forgiver
Ned Bustard (2023)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

The Lord’s Prayer

I love a good illustrated version of The Lord’s Prayer. We have—and have savored—several. But Harold L. Senkbeil’s The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children does more than put the familiar words to a new tune: it explores those words, digging into what they mean for a child today. Like the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer can (at least in our family’s tradition) become so rhythmic, so familiar, that its edges feel worn off. And that is both a comfort and a challenge, because when it fits so smoothly in the palm like that, we tend to lose a sense of its shape.

The Lord's Prayer, by Harold Senkbeil | Little Book, Big Story

But this new book welcomes readers into the words of the Lord’s Prayer and examines the prayer line by line. Each double spread focuses on one line of the prayer and allows the narrator to explore the meaning behind it. Like The Apostles’ Creed, an earlier book in this series, this book is written in first person, from a child’s perspective, so these old, oft-recited words feel warm and welcoming.

Lord, teach us to pray.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
How do we know God’s will?
God’s word reveals his will to us.
Is it dark and scary? No!
It’s good and gracious.
God cares about what happens on earth.
That’s why he sent his Son Jesus for us all.

Like the other books in the FatCat series, this one is full of materials that equip families to dig deeper: prayers to read together, a list of verses that accompany each line of the Lord’s Prayer, information on the benefits of catechism—these books are a wealth of resources! And The Lord’s Prayer is worthy addition, one to savor as a family, a few pages at a time.


The Lord’s Prayer: For All God’s Children
Harold L. Senkbeil; Natasha Kennedy (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

A World of Praise

The last few months at our house have been—how shall I put it?—an adventure. We haven’t been hit by a semi-truck of suffering, just by a series of rogue go-carts, I guess, one of them right after the other. Some seasons are like that, and when you’re in one, you can find yourself grumbling and grousing about every little thing before you realize exactly what’s happened.

And so last night, when I read A World of Praise to the girls, I was struck by how much my soul needed this book’s lifting and expanding. A World of Praise tours the globe, praising the Lord for things big and small, reminding readers of the wonders on other continents as well as in our own back yards. The words are gorgeous, and the illustrations harmonize with them beautifully; they are richly detailed in a way that invites readers to linger, ponder, and pray.

A World of Praise, by Deborah Lock | Little Book, Big Story

Oh, the wonder of a new morning!
Oh, the warmth of the prairie breeze!
Oh, the sway of the ripening wheat!
Oh, the fullness of our daily bread!
Thank you for all that you provide
to fill our daily needs.

The rhythm of this poem and the little windows of the paintings drew us out of our home (“Oh, the wonder of Urgent Care! Oh, the warmth of yet another fevered forehead!”) and set our sights higher: on the “God of far and wide, high and low, great and small.” The God who is with us as we disinfect the sink again, hold still for an ankle x-ray, and collect our last cat’s ashes from the “Pet After-Care Facility.” He is the God who blesses us even in seasons of stray go-carts.

This book makes the world bigger in two ways: by recalling for us how big God is, that he reaches every square inch of this world (and beyond!), and by reminding us how big the world is. Which has the double effect of reminding us how small we are and how safe we are in his hands.

So, this book is a soul-stirring delight—one that is a joy to sit and examine with small readers and a balm to read aloud before bedtime. In the last pages of A World of Praise, the author includes passages from the psalms she used as a foundation for the poem, so at its close the book strikes this beautiful note:

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.

Psalm 113:3

Which is to say, in light and darkness, praise his name. In the dead of winter also.

A World of Praise, by Deborah Lock | Little Book, Big Story

Amen.


A World of Praise
Deborah Lock; Helen Cann (2022)

The King of Christmas

Where is the King of Christmas? Where can we find him?

At this point in the Christmas season, I sometimes find myself wondering: Is he in the piles of presents accumulating in closets around our house? Is he in the minivan with us, as we drive to one gathering after another? Is he in the kitchen with us as we bake, or in the bedrooms with us as we fall asleep, exhausted after a Christmas recital, a December birthday party, a family gathering?

Where can we find him?

And so I love Todd Hains’s new book, The King of Christmas, which follows the wise men, who follow the star, asking as they search: “The heavens where the stars shine—is the King of Christmas there? The thrones where the mighty sit—is the King of Christmas there?” The answer, of course, is “no”—until they reach the manger where animals eat, and the cross where criminals die. Jesus’s throne room is found in the lowly, humble places; his court serves all who search for it—they have only to ask to gain admission.

The King of Christmas, by Todd R. Hains | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a lovely addition to Lexham Press’s FatCat books (see also: The Apostle’s Creed). Natasha Kennedy’s illustrations are filled with details for young readers to find (every page, for example, features FatCat, the series mascot), which add another layer of depth to the story. With these engaging illustrations and the musical, repeated refrain, this book is a delight for the youngest readers. But though we no longer have any of those “youngest readers” in our house, we read and enjoyed it together all the same.

Of course, today the Lord—through the Spirit—is with us everywhere. He is in the minivan, the kitchen, the dim, quiet bedrooms. This is the truth I return to here, near the end of Advent: the Lord is in all of it, working in ways we do not see just yet. So we rejoice in him! As we wrap one last present, write one last card, pull one last pan of sugar cookies from the oven.

Where is the King of Christmas? He is here, with us.

Merry Christmas, friends.


The King of Christmas
Todd R. Hains; Natasha Kennedy (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

Seek & Find: The First Christmas

I am about to reveal one of my top-tier parenting secrets. Are you ready?

I never leave home without a deck of cards and a tiny tin of thinking putty. (And at least six different kinds of lip balm, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Many mid-sermon fidgets have been averted by that tin of putty, and many a restaurant tantrum has been defused by an impromptu game of War. For a full decade, we had either a baby or a toddler (occasionally both at once), so I became adept at keeping small hands busy whenever we encountered a lull.

For car rides or waiting rooms, here is my other secret: seek-and-find books. I Spy, Where’s Waldo, Things to Spot books—these are crisis-averters, road-trip-savers, Makers of Happy Hands and Calm Hearts. Though my daughters can manage most car rides without diversions these days, I still like to keep a few of these around, just in case.

So, how wonderful to discover a seek-and-find book for Christmas!

Seek and Find: The First Christmas, by Sarah Parker | Little Book, Big Story

Each spread in Sarah Parker’s The First Christmas features a short, paraphrased passage from the Christmas story, accompanied by brilliant illustrations filled with things to find. From hanging baskets to the charming Ruth Wren, there are treasures tucked into these pages that draw our attention into the story and invite us to pause and reflect on what’s happening.

This book moves at a different speed than the typical picture book does: “Here is the story,” it says. “Let’s sit and study it together for a while.” I think that’s part of why these treasure-trove books keep appealing to my kids even after they outgrow other books meant for young readers. Seek and Find: The First Christmas invites them to pause and consider; to stop fidgeting for a moment, to settle. To meditate again on the humility of Christ, the God born as a baby.


Seek and Find: The First Christmas
Sarah Parker; Andre Parker (2022)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.